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How NCSEA Policy Forum 2018 Shapes the Future of Child Support

Earlier this month, members of the National Child Support Enforcement Association (NCSEA) came together in Washington, DC for the NCSEA Policy Forum. For the lucky attendees, Policy Forum was an opportunity to connect, learn, and grow. For those who didn’t get a chance to attend in person, we’ve recorded a few key takeaways to share.

The opening session, “Exploring Opportunities for Collaboration,” signaled the start of a new day in collaboration among child support and other federal programs.  OCSE Commissioner Scott Lekan led a panel of leaders from the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) including Acting Assistant Secretary Steven Wagner, with assistance from the leaders of the Office of Family Assistance, the Office of Child Care, and child welfare programs.

The discussion focused on establishing important linkages among child support, TANF, Child Care Assistance Program, and child welfare programs.  The need for greater efforts in workforce referrals was mentioned repeatedly.  The fatherhood program, long supported by child support practitioners, was featured as a particularly beneficial component of the TANF program.  Looking forward to hearing more about beneficial collaboration among these groups.

The plenary session “Principal or Principle?  The Future of Child Support Caseloads in Context of Incentives and Current Regulations” session discussed the future of child support in light of the “Modernization” rule, the existing Performance Measures and incentives framework, and demographics of the child support caseload.  Presenters reviewed the evolution of the program over 40 years, recent trends in collections, performance, and caseload demographics, and discussed how policy decision-making will inform what the program looks like  20 years from now.

Discussion focused on the need to attract and serve more low-income custodial parents who could benefit from IV-D services, how to engage noncustodial parents who are not paying or may require modification of their order, and how the IV-D program could collaborate with other programs to improve outcomes for children and families in the IV-D program.  This Panel included congressional staff from both the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees.

Another well-received plenary session was “Culture and Communication: Changing How We See Child Support.” Rev. Dr. Michael Oleksa of Anchorage, Alaska, held the audience’s full attention for an hour and a half as he discussed the problem of cultural miscommunication and how it affects outcomes for families and children.  He shared personal experiences as a young priest from Pennsylvania who moved to Kodiak Island to work with Alaskan Natives.  This session was a wake-up call to child support practitioners to consider the cultural background of those we serve when setting expectations for their cooperation and long-term outcomes.

This year’s theme was “Shaping the Future of Child Support,” and with the changes in federal administration, modern families, technology, and international collaboration, opportunities for shaping the future of the program are wide open. Our thanks go to the planning committee for putting together another fantastic program for this year’s Policy Forum, and as a sponsor and proven child support operations partner, we’re proud to support this important event.